News Tidbits 8/24/17: Early Start

24 08 2017

1. The Old Library redevelopment is creeping forward. The Old Library Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature voted to recommend the sale of the property for the previously stated amount of $925,000 to Travis-Hyde. With that vote, it goes forward to the full legislature for a vote on September 5th, where there are no major challenges expected. The Library Committee vote was 4-1, with legislator Dooley Kiefer (D-Cayuga Heights) opposed. Kiefer has always been opposed to any sale, and has long advocated for a lease of the land – and the only way the lease made any practical sense was by being 50 years in length, so that any investment could have the possibility of being recuperated. Given that she’ll probably vote no again for consistency’s sake, and perhaps a rejection from legislator Anna Kelles (D-Ithaca) because she was a long-time proponent of the condo plan, there aren’t likely to be any other opposition votes from the 15-member legislature. Once the sale is okayed, site prep for the 58-unit mixed-use senior facility at 310-314 North Cayuga Street can begin by the end of the year, with a spring 2019 opening expected.

2. So when is an expansion truly an expansion? That’s the question raised by the Times’ recent coverage of a proposed renovation of the county jail, which faces issues with overcrowding, but whose expansion of holding cells is strongly opposed by a number of advocacy groups. The jail is shared with the Sheriff’s Department offices at the moment, and the combined facility at 779 Warren Road is collectively referred to as the Public Safety Building.

The ideal concept as pitched by the Sheriff’s Office would create an additional 13,000 square-foot administrative facility adjacent to the jail that would provide office space, conference space and locker rooms for officers. This would free up programmatic space in the PSB to be used for support functions like classrooms and counseling/meeting rooms, with the ultimate goal of reducing recidivism (the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend, and thus take up space in the jail). So,it’s  not a jail expansion per se, but a support services expansion, which would probably drive debate among advocacy groups. The proposal is strictly conceptual, but the county is prepared to move forward with a formal study from LaBella Associates if requested.

3. At the latest Planning Board meeting, Lakeview’s 60-unit supportive and affordable housing plan was granted the green light to go forward to the next step, though not without reservation and concern from some local business owners and elected officials. Per the Times’ Matt Butler, 1st Ward councilors Cynthia Brock and George McGonigal spoke in opposition to the current plan, feeling it was too large and unattractive, while nearby business owners were uncomfortable with the population who would live there. 30 units would be set aside for those who are mostly independent but may need some degree of mental health support, 22 units are general affordable housing, and eight are for formerly homeless individuals. All units are one bedrooms. Lakeview will provide office and support space for services on the first floor of the 62,700 SF building.

In other news, the debate over South Hill continued with the airing of grievances against student housing, Finger Lakes ReUse earned approval for its Elmira Road project, and someone must have left early, because the planning board failed to reach quorum (minimum attendance) to vote on recommendation of historic designation for the Chacona Block at 411-415 College Avenue.

4. Here’s an interesting little proposal out of Danby – a 10-unit pocket neighborhood. The project would be located on 2.2 acres at the rural intersection of Brown Road and Short Road, northeast of the hamlet of West Danby. The houses would be modular and modestly-sized with two basic styles, a 1.5-story cape and 1-story ranch. Additionally, they would be designed for aging-in-place, Net Zero Energy (zero net energy consumption), and have a shared common space (courtyard, lawn or similar), parking lot and septic system. The project, which has access to municipal water service, would require a zoning variance. The project is similar to the Amabel and Aurora Street pocket neighborhoods in Ithaca, though it’s a different developer – here, it’s Mike McLaughlin, a business owner from Newfield, and Danby residents Esther and Brooke Greenhouse. Esther was a team member in the condo proposal for the Old Library site.

Although not explicit, these are likely for-sale units, possibly with a push towards seniors. With shared spaces, modular components and modest sizes, the cost for these is likely to be modest as well – they would likely be similar to the Lansing Community Cottages price range of $175k-$225k.

5. After much debate, the Sun8 Dryden solar projects have been approved by the town planning board. The sites include a nearly 11 MW facility at 2150 Dryden Road, and an 18 MW facility along Turkey Hill and Dodge Roads. The projects will produce approximately 28 MW of electricity, which is enough to power the approximately 7,500 households. The project will utilize a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) of $8,000/MW, or about $224,000 in year one of operation, and with built-in inflation, about $8 million over 20 years.

Meanwhile, the town has begun review on a much smaller solar project at 2243 Dryden Road. Delaware River Solar is seeking approval to construct a 2.4 MW array on the interior portion of a farm property just west of the village near Ferguson Road. About 35 acres of the 115 acre parcel would be impacted during construction, with five acres used for the panels themselves.

6. In real estate listings, here’s something unusual for those who dare to be different – a Groton church, already renovated with living space and studio space. Aptly-located 113 Church Street is listed at $174,900 and 9,490 square feet on Zillow, but a check of county records says 9,166 SF – a 1,000 SF apartment, a 1,344 SF office, 4,078 SF “non-contributing space”, and 2,744 SF “cold storage”. The property was built in either 1881 or 1883 (county record) for a Congregational denomination, and after some mergers in the 1960s it became the Groton Community Church. From records and county file photos, it looks like the church building was re-purposed in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Previous tenants include a head start program, massage therapy, and art gallery. The tax assessment is for $100k, which seems to account for the old and somewhat mothballed condition of the property, such as the boarded up windows on the steeple tower. Should one be interested, contact info can be found in the first link.

7. This week’s news round-up is running a little early because I wanted to get the latest Trumansburg Hamilton Square materials out before the planning board meeting Thursday evening. Over the past few weeks, there haven’t too many changes to the project site plan, but the daycare center was moved from inside the loop road to outside, exchanging locations with a string of for-sale market-rate townhomes. The resulting move also seems to have decreased the number of market-rate units (some townhome, some detached single-family) down by one, to 14. 11 affordable for-sale townhomes and 47 affordable rental units are still in the mix.

//simplebooklet.com/embed.php?wpKey=W7HALtX9d87mG9WFMNbp9N&source=embed

//simplebooklet.com/embed.php?wpKey=RK3Z4a5lU7XdYcy2vpC4Gc&source=embed

A copy of the traffic study from SRF Associates has also been made available on the project website. The traffic study aims to be thorough, and will likely be expanded in response to neighbor concerns about slower traffic like garbage trucks and school busses, snow impacts, and a possible sampling and estimation of school-focused but non-peak hours and a couple other intersections further from the project site (Rabbit Run Road, and Whig/South Streets). The meeting tomorrow will be at 7 PM at the Trumansburg Fire Hall. The actual submission of the project for formal board review is not expected until late next month, after incorporating feedback from the upcoming meeting.

 





News Tidbits 6/18/16: Wit Fails Me After Eight Years

18 06 2016

201_college_v4_1 201_college_v4_2
1. Let’s start off with a brief update on 201 College Avenue. My colleague Mike Smith at the Voice did an encompassing article on the topic late last Friday, and there have been a couple more modest developments as of late. Apart from the multi-million dollar sale mentioned last week, the city’s Design Review Committee also gave their input on the project. They said they like the current form of thje building’s front (west) entrance, because it calls forth elements of Grandview House a few doors down. they also recommended darker or neutral grey colors to minimize the appearance of the fifth floor, more windows along College Avenue, warm accent colors, and tweaks to the window and cladding scheme. The resulting revisions were incorporated into the latest building design seen above, and for which additional images, material samples sheet and interior plans can be found here. The project will be discussed at the Project Review meeting next week, and the official Planning Board meeting Tuesday 6/28, at which the public hearing will be held, and consideration of preliminary approval.

107_s_albany_v2_2

107_s_albany_v2_1

2. Speaking of design review, 107 South Albany also went through the committee this week. Recommendations included projecting window sills, stucco all the way back to the rear balconies, and noting on docs that the large sign on the existing building would be removed during the renovation. Site Plan Review app here, drawings here, Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) here, planting plan here.

The renovation and addition seems like a good example of re-use in a corridor that the city is targeting for new investment. It preserves the century-old structure and adds housing in such a way that, by location and design, doesn’t have a significant visual impact. By zoning, Nick Stavropoulos could have sought five floors if he wanted. This plan will be going through the whole shebang at the June meeting – Declaration of Lead Agency, Public Hearing, Determination of environmental Significance, and Prelim and Final Approval.

Among other things to be discussed at Project Review and the Planning Board meetings – Prelim/Final Approval for 602 West State Street (the Elmira Savings Bank project), signage for Collegetown Crossing, and a few minor zoning variances. New sketch plans, if any, will be announced on the PB Agenda next week.

3. This week in big sales – someone plunked down $680,000 on a house at 107 Catherine Street in Collegetown. I say somebody because they conducted the purchase through an LLC (aptly named “105-107 Catherine Street LLC”) registered by a local law firm last summer. Just like the Maguire purchase of the Carpenter Circle land, this effectively hides the buyer from public view. The same purchase bought 105 Catherine for $780,000 last November. It looks like 105 has 10 bedrooms and 107 has 7 bedrooms, based off assessment docs.

cafd1

105 and 107 Catherine make up the edge of the CR-4 Form District. By zoning, an applicant could build up to four floors, no parking required. A development plan would likely consolidate lots. Something to keep an eye on. Collegetown is getting to be a very expensive place.

4. Meanwhile, here’s something that’s just hitting the market. For the budding landlords, 306 North Cayuga is up for sale. The “C. R. Williams House” was built in 1898 (interior/exterior photos from the early 1980s here). The current owner, Jeff Kalnitz, picked it up for $300k in 1997, had it on and off the market a couple of times, and then decided to do a thorough ILPC-approved renovation. The 12,500 SF property, which holds six high-end apartments and approvals for a seventh, is being offered at $1.45 million. It’s worth looking at the listing if only for the glamorous interior shots.

amici house 1 county
5. On Tuesday, the Tompkins County Legislature will vote on whether or not to take $118,000 from the county’s general fund to indirectly help build head start classrooms and a living facility for homeless young adults.

The $118,000 would be use to purchase a house at 661 Spencer, whose land would be incorporated into plans for a 23-person facility for homeless young adults (some with children) aged 18-25, and five classrooms. The classrooms would be built as one building, while the housing looks to be an addition to the TCAction building. The one-story house at 661 Spencer, built in 1950 and formerly formerly owned by the Amici family, would be removed.

The plan is the latest incarnation of TCAction’s Amici House project, slated to share their headquarters property at 701 Spencer Road on the southern edge of the city of Ithaca. TCAction first acquired their property with the help of the county back in 2001; the cost of the purchase is paid back to the county in the form of a 20-year lease.

If the legislature approves, the lease would be extended by two years so TCAction can pay them back for the up-front cost of buying 661 Spencer. The Amici House project would be completed by 2018.

6. Poet’s Landing in Dryden will be moving forward with its 48-unit second phase. The rentals, which are targeted at individuals making 60% of county median income, are expected to begin construction in August with a late summer 2017 opening. Phase I, which consisted of 72 units, opened in early 2013. The state awarded the project $1,600,000 from its Housing Trust Fund, and $734,956 in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to help finance the apartments’ construction.

tfc_v2_1

7. Tompkins Trust held the official groundbreaking this Friday for it’s new 7-story headquarters. Plans were slightly delayed after some issues arose with NYSEG. The current plan is to have the 123,000 SF building ready for occupancy by March 2018. Costs have risen somewhat, from $26.5 million to $31.3 million.





The Great Collegetown Building Auction

5 08 2014

11-24-2012 167

Given that Collegetown’s been so active on the development front these past few weeks, I figured I’d run a couple of pieces related to its history and development. Here’s one of them.
The building at 402 College Avenue (the “Starbucks Building”) isn’t very old. It was only completed in 2005. Prior to that, the site was home to a 3.5 story, wood-frame house dating from the late 1800s. I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find photos of it; it wasn’t an especially charming structure, the first floor had been built out for small storefronts (similar to the Kraftee’s Building), and the rest of it was pretty rundown. You can see clips of it in old file photos from the county tax assessment office, here and here. The two storefronts, mid-century bumpouts, housed a number of shops over the years – in the 1960s and 1970s, University Delicatessen (Uni Deli), then Gould’s Sporting Goods in the 1990s, and by the early 2000s, one (402) was vacant, and the other (404) was occupied by the Razzle Dazzle beauty shop.

The house was owned by the Papayanakos family. In 2002, the only resident left in the home was Constance Papp (she opted to Americanize her surname), a retired Ithaca school teacher. She had lived in the building since 1958, or 44 years, and was 86 years old in 2002. Starting around 1996, the building was falling into serious disrepair, enough that the housing units were no longer up to code. But since Papp was the only resident, and made no attempt to rent the other three units, the building inspectors didn’t push the issue.

Starting in 2000, Papp called the IPD on multiple occasions to report burglars. While none were found in any case, the police did report the serious housing code violations. Papp refused to let the building inspector in, and it took a neighbor and two IPD officers to help him execute the warrant.

The interior was in shambles. There was water damage to her bedroom ceiling, the heating was busted, garbage strewn about in the living room, and pigeons had taken residence in the attic and third floor. It was a safety hazard, both to its resident, and to neighbor properties in the event of a fire. The other units were declared unsafe, and the old woman was given a reprieve once her unit was cleaned. But, showing signs of significant mental illness a year later, she was considered unfit to manage the property, and moved to an assisted-living facility west of Ithaca, where she passed away four years later.

101_0504

With no one to manage her affairs, a guardian was appointed, and it was decided to sell the building on her behalf, by way of a public auction of the parcel. Although it was in awful shape, it sits on the most trafficked corner in the city, making its potential tempting to many. Given its possibilities, the opening bid would be a cool $500,000. A lot of the big players in Collegetown real estate were there: Jason Fane, who I’ve tapped many keys about; Mack Travis (the retired president of what is now Travis Hyde); and Bill and George Avramis. The Avramises are the third largest owners in Collegetown by property value, behind only John Novarr and Fane; given that Novarr’s rise is pretty recent, the Avramises were likely the second-largest back in 2002. Bill Avramis, the father, has been in the Collegetown market since the 1970s; his son George is a more recent addition.

The description of the auction from the Sun is pretty engrossing, so I’ll quote it:

 

Elias Shokrian accepted the opening bid and initially seemed to have won by default with no word from the crowd until Philip Youen raised his hand. For several minutes, still, [auctioneer Christopher] Anagnost waited through long pauses to move from one bid to the next.

All that changed when Jason Fane moved in, bidding 600,000 dollars. From there, Youen, Fane and Mack Travis quickly pushed the bidding up nearly 100,000 dollars.

With a high and perhaps a closing bid in mind, Anagnost turned to Fane.

He obliged with a 15,000-dollar advance and appearing satisfied, Anagnost prepared to end the auction with a call for final bids. He nearly declared the property sold before George Avramis entered the fray.

“700,000 dollars,” Avramis said.

Having already outlasted three prospective buyers, Fane wasted no time in advancing the bid further. Slowly and incrementally, Avramis and Fane bid each other to 800,000 and then 900,000 dollars.

The crowd assembled in the courthouse — mostly spectators — was looking exclusively to Avramis and then back to Fane for each ensuing bid. Finally, with Avramis at 925,000 dollars, all eyes turned to Fane.

“My congratulations to George,” Fane said, withdrawing abruptly from the auction.

Fane had reached his limit and Avramis later conceded that he was approaching his as well.

Immediately following the auction, Avramis said he would consider saving and restoring the building or tearing it down and paying a high price for the land. He said he would settle on specific plans for the property by the closing.

***

Closing was 30 days after the auction (therefore, April 10, 2002). While the current site was underutilized, historically compromised and in poor shape, the biggest issue to rebuilding was parking – any new build would require a parking space for every two tenants, within 500 feet of the parcel. The Avramis family had been eying the parcel for a while, making offers to buy the house (and being refused) as far back as the late 1980s.

Well, being the large landowners that they are, the Avramises found a loophole of sorts, which they used with the city’s benediction. It may have taken a year of back-and-forth, but the city agreed that George Avramis could supply parking at 211 Linden, a parking garage owned by his mother Maria. This allowed him to move forward with a 6-story, 20-unit, 35 bedroom building designed by Jagat Sharma. Given the recent zoning changes, I’m inclined to wonder if the Avramises have any plans for redevelopment of some of their other properties.

Had it been another buyer, the results could have been very different. The house could still be there. It could be another Fane parcel. A few seconds of decision-making made all the difference. Funny how that works.





News Tidbits 8/1/09: Edelman Realty Puts Sorority House on the Market

2 08 2009

http://aedelman.com/search.php?mls=129820&startat=20&price1=&price2=&area=&elemsch=&school_district=&new=1&luxury=

Realtor Description:
Own a piece of Cornell History. Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority is an arts & crafts style stone & stucco building on The Knoll. Built circa 1915 with up-to-date sprinkler, fire alarm & other safety systems. Compliant w/all inspection by the City and Fire Department. Living room, chapter room, paneled dining rm, commercial kitchen. 15 rooms for up to 25 occupants.There is an also a one bedroom two-story caretaker’s cottage with a separate driveway. Approximately 18 parking spaces+driveway to cottage.

The house’s list price is $795,000. Technically, the property has two units, the second being the small building in the second photo (both of these photos are from the listing).

100_1359

Personally, I think my photo is more flattering.